I often search for the Rosetta Stone of understanding and knowledge. While I know no such thing exists, that no one person, or group of people, could ever possess such a thing, the pursuit creates a never-ending journey of exploration and understanding. The woes of the transitioning veteran are nothing new, their tales extend as far back as human history itself. There lies in this experience of war, its preparation, its culture, its everything, that sets us apart from the masses. It is not to say this separation is better or worse, merely that it exists.
The experience of war, its fury, its beauty, its fear, and its every emotion capsulated in single moments, creates yet another subcategory. It creates a category of men and women who understand the fragility of life. These men and women taste food like no other, value like no other; their perspectives are forever changed. They are a category of men and women who have faced the inevitable reality the world seems to ignore, that death has been the inevitable end since our first moment of life. Ignoring it does nothing but make it consume us and consume our desire to avoid and escape that which no one can.
I speak not for every man and woman in this subset. I speak only of my experiences and what I have found. That connection I have found only in my fellow warriors. I will not speak to the age-old debate over the chicken or the egg. It does not matter if one was driven to war because of who they were, or if war created who they are. These words are not the debates of scholars, these are the words of a fellow warrior.
We are often the Tyler Durdens, Randle McMurphys, or Luke Jacksons (aka Cool Hand Luke) of the world. We are not owned by our possessions. We are driven not by the façade but by the tangible. We try, despite our fear of failure, when others are consumed by the mere prospect of failure. The money in our account is not the measure of our lives, but rather the relationships fostered. We are driven by the good deeds executed. We are not driven by the extrinsic. We are driven by the intrinsic. We are driven by the morals and values we hold, and to lose those is a fate worse than death. We are not those who conform for the sake of conforming. We are those who see money’s value beyond objects. Money is the means to experience. To experience time with friends and family. Money is what we offer others in need. Money is what makes adventures. Money is not what makes us.
We are Tyler Durden, finding value beyond things. We are Randle McMurphy, trying when others will not, inspiring others to follow suit. In the face of failure, we stare upon the once cheering and now jeering onlookers, cutting to their very souls with a simple, “At least I tried…” We are Luke Jackson, showing others we cannot be owned. We would meet death with a smile, a final testament to our freedom. We are not measured by our possessions. We are not those seeking control over the weak and downtrodden. We are not fair-weather believers and onlookers. We are what so few in society seem to be. We are the loyal. We are the brave. We are the dependable. We are the uncontrollable. We are ourselves. We are not the façade, cracking and crumbling under a single blemish.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.